Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
The purpose of this paper is to address a range of issues associated with the emergence and ongoing development of technical specialty areas within the civil engineering profession. These issues include:
• lack of any authoritative definition of the civil engineering specialty areas; • lack of a clear educational paradigm for the development of civil engineers who are prepared for professional practice in a given specialty area; • lack of a coherent system for credentialing practitioners in each specialty area; and • ambiguity in the relationships between the technical institutes of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the civil engineering specialty areas.
To demonstrate the importance of these issues, we identify current problems in civil engineering education, accreditation, and licensure arising from the profession’s failure to manage the process of internal specialization proactively. In contrast, we summarize the more coherent and more effective system of internal specialization used in the medical profession.
As background for our analysis, we draw upon historical case studies and theoretical models from the Sociology of Professions to establish:
• the nature of occupational specialization in an economic system; • the need for discretionary specialization with respect to a formal body of knowledge, as a prerequisite for the establishment of a profession; • the causes of increasing internal specialization within professions; • the beneficial and potentially detrimental effects of internal specialization; and • the conditions under which internal specialization can lead to formal division of a profession into two or more separate occupational groups.
In performing our analysis, we also draw upon the Sociology of Professions to identify the respective contributions of educational breadth and educational depth to the academic preparation of a professional. We note that an essential characteristic of professionalism—the exercise of discretionary judgment—requires both, because specialized technical knowledge is always applied in a broader economic, societal, and technological context.
Based on this analysis, we develop (1) a conceptual model for formally identifying the civil engineering specialty areas and (2) education, accreditation, and credentialing paradigms that are consistent with this model. We also recommend the adoption of a formal ASCE Policy Statement to institutionalize the model.
COORDINATING NOTE: This abstract is submitted at the specific invitation and request of Tom Lenox, the coordinator of the ASCE Liaison Committee’s session(s) for the CE Division of ASEE in 2018. It should be considered for inclusion in the sessions on “Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession – and ASCE” that the ASCE Liaison Committee is organizing.
Ressler, S. J., & Lenox, T. A. (2018, June), Specialization Within the Civil Engineering Profession: Issues, Analysis, and Recommendations Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30979
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